German composer and conductor, a leading composer for the modern orchestra
and a master of composing for the human voice.
Born June 11, 1864, in Munich and educated
at the University of Munich, Strauss was the son of an eminent horn player,
Franz Strauss (1822-1905),and was trained in music from the age of four.
From the age of 21 he was a successful conductor, first at Meiningen and
later at Munich. He continued to conduct important orchestras and in major
opera houses in Germany and Austria for most of his life. From 1919 to
1924 he was joint conductor and director, with the Austrian conductor
Franz Schalk (1863-1931), of the Vienna State Opera. After the advent
of National Socialism in Germany, he was from 1933 to 1935 honorary head
of the music bureau of the Third Reich. Strauss remained in Germany during
World War II and died at Garmisch-Partenkirchen on Sept. 8, 1949.
The works of Strauss fall into three
distinct periods. The compositions of the first period (1880-87), seldom
played today, are strongly influenced by the classical and romantic masters
and are remarkably facile. These include a Sonata for Cello and Piano
(1883), Burleske for piano and orchestra (1885), and the symphonic fantasy
Aus Italien (From Italy, 1887).
In his second period (1887-1904), during which he achieved his
mastery of orchestration, Strauss made his notable contribution
to the repertory of program music. He developed the symphonic
poem to a high degree and utilized the leitmotiv system (the
use of recurrent themes with specified extramusical associations)
that was developed by the German composer Richard Wagner. He
also made innovations in harmony and instrumentation, greatly
expanding the expressive possibilities of the modern symphony
orchestra. These works included Don Juan (1888), Macbeth (1890),
Tod und Verklärung (Death and Transfiguration, 1890), Till
Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche (Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks,
1895), Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra, 1896),
Don Quixote (1897), and Ein Heldenleben (A Hero's Life, 1898).
To the third period (1904-49) belong the operas, considered among
the most important of the 20th century. After the production
of his first successful opera, Salome (1905), Strauss formed
a partnership with the Austrian poet and librettist Hugo von
Hofmannsthal, with whom he produced his finest operas, including
Elektra (1909); Der Rosenkavalier (1911); Ariadne auf Naxos (1912;
rev. 1916); Die Frau ohne Schatten (The Woman without a Shadow,
1919); Die aegyptische Helena (The Egyptian Helen, 1928); and
Arabella (1933). After Hofmannsthal's death, Strauss produced
operas with other librettists, though none so successfully. These
include Die schweigsame Frau (The Silent Woman, 1935), Daphne
(1938), and Capriccio (1942).
Strauss also composed more than 100 songs; some of them, such
as "Zueignung" (Dedication, 1882-83) and "Morgen"
(Morning, 1893-94), are of the finest quality. His other works
include the ballet Josephslegende (Legend of Joseph, 1914), the
symphonic works Symphonia domestica (1904) and Eine Alpensinfonie
(Alpine Symphony, 1915), and Vier letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs,